In a follow-up on the food poisoning outbreak linked to refried beans in Western New York Mighty Taco restaurants, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued the following statement concerning the etiology yesterday:


“The Wadsworth Center, the public health laboratory of the New York State Department of Health, has identified Bacillus cereus in patient clinical specimens, as well as from refried beans collected from Mighty Taco restaurants, as part of an investigation into gastrointestinal illness among several patrons of certain Mighty Taco restaurants.

“The investigation of this outbreak is continuing, and all laboratory tests are not yet complete. The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) is investigating the source/supplier of the refried beans. There have been no recent reports of gastrointestinal illness among patrons of Mighty Taco.”

The outbreak sickened 160 people in Erie and Niagara counties.

The restaurant said out of a now overabundance of caution, Mighty Taco has temporarily suspended the sale of any menu item that contains refried beans until such point as a new supply is made available.

Bacillus cereus is a well recognized and common cause of food poisoning (bacterial intoxication or toxin-mediated infection) worldwide.  It is commonly found in low levels in raw, dried and processed foods.  The bacterium causes two types of toxins: a diarrheal type and a vomiting type.

The diarrheal type of this food poisoning is usually associated with meats, milk and vegetables. The onset for the disease is from 8-16 hours and it lasts 12 to 14 hours.

The vomiting type of this food poisoning is due to rice, grains, cereals and other starchy foods. The onset is quite rapid (30 minutes to 6 hours) and usually lasts a day or so. This type is frequently associated with outbreaks due to cooked rice held at room temperature.

This type of food poisoning is rarely fatal and cannot be transmitted from person to person. Prevention is properly cooking of food, and if not consumed, rapid cooling prior to storage.